When I was in Peru in 2006, the entire country was dry. I got in about a week before an election and for that period no alcohol was allowed to be sold. The reason for this was fear of riots. Yes, really. The idea that booze + a heated election season = riots, blew me away. All I could think about was how few people give a damn about elections in the United States. Something like 70 percent of Peruvians are peasants, with very little access to government, yet they may light shit on fire, stampede through cities, and destroy people and things in their path, because of the ballot box. What a contrast to my own country, the home of the free and the brave, where so many people would rather just be like, “Nah, I’m gonna Netflix and chill” instead of participate in that thing that so many around the world have fought and died for: democracy. I was ashamed of my compatriots.
Now granted, in Peru, voting is compulsory; people who don’t do it face a major fine. But there are plenty of things we’re all obligated to do that don’t result in riots; remarkably no DMV has ever been torn to the ground. Quite simply the idea that people’s voices mattered and that they were exercising their vote, was enough to cause the Peruvian government to shut down every bar and liquor store for an entire week.
And here we are, less than two weeks from election day in San Francisco, and some estimates are that voter turnout will be less than 25 percent. Less than 25 percent! What a joke … unfortunately, not a very funny one.
I’ll be blunt: Don’t fuck this up San Francisco. If my language offends you, you’re too busy looking at my finger while I’m pointing at a firestorm. We have a mayor and a Board of Supervisors who are selling our city to the highest bidder, we have a billion dollar company (Airbnb) spending record amounts of money on deceitful ads to ensure their record profits, we have a homelessness epidemic directly tied to our eviction epidemic, and we have streets and sidewalks so covered in human feces that there are San Francisco Poop Maps. This is San Francisco right now … and we might get less than 25 percent of the vote.
So I repeat: Don’t fuck this up San Francisco. Our city may not have ever needed a big voter turnout as badly as it does now, because you know who is gonna show up and vote? The people who got us into this mess.
Those in power stay that way because they know how to mobilize voters. They know how to manipulate people and manipulate votes in a way that keeps them just barely on this side of legal. But while they have the money and the power, we have the numbers. All we have to do is show up. While it’s too late to get your friends to register, it’s not too late to get them to vote. Shame them, cajole them, call them silly names. Tell your friends you won’t talk to them if they don’t vote or make a game out of it. I don’t care what you do, just get them to care. If you do, then we’ve got this.
The future of our city is on the line and all we have to do to save it is show up, and vote.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in The San Francisco Examiner.